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Top 4 Best Single DIN Head Units of 2018

Best single din head unit reviews 2018

Best-in-class
Alpine CDE-HD149BT

Alpine CDE-HD149BT Single-Din Bluetooth Car Stereo

The very best car stereo

Audio playback and compatibility with iOS and Android systems add versatility to the design.

Alpine CDE-HD149BT Review

The Alpine CDE-HD149BT is perhaps the best single DIN car stereo on the market, ideal to install in most cars and compatible with multiple playback systems.

In fact, the unit is compatible with iPhone 5 and boasts iPod audio integration via USB or accessory cable. Besides the iOS systems, this single DIN radio also works with the Android devices for full audio integration.

Three pairs of preamp RCA outputs allow connecting the single DIN head unit to the front and rear speakers as well as to a subwoofer, while the 9-band equalizer enhances the quality of the sound.

This single DIN radio also has an AM/FM tuner, CD-R/RW capabilities, Bluetooth connectivity for hands-free calling or audio streaming, and boasts a peak output of 50 watts on four channels – all you could expect from a best-in-class pick.

Best value
Pioneer MVH-X390BT

Pioneer MVH-X390BT Vehicle Digital Media Receiver

Excellent value for money

Bluetooth connectivity allows for audio streaming and hands-free calling.

Pioneer MVH-X390BT Review

The Pioneer MVH-X390BT could be the right single DIN head unit for the vehicle owners looking for the right balance between price and quality. Boasting unique features and some best-in-class characteristics, this unit will hardly disappoint.

Like our best-in-class, this single DIN car radio features Bluetooth connectivity and is compatible with the iPhone and a range of Android devices.

An integrated digital media receiver compatible with the Pioneer ARC app allows to control the unit remotely, while the access functions include rewind and fast forward, various audio search options and presets.

Another great feature is the compact chassis design that makes it easy to integrate the single DIN unit in your board.

Working with Spotify, easy to control and easy to connect with apps and devices, the Pioneer MVH-X390BT is the best single head DIN unit you can buy.

Also great
Pioneer DEH-S5000BT

Pioneer DEH-S5000BT Single Din Car Stereo

Good, but less versatile

Pioneer ARC app compatibility ensures a no-frills remote control of the unit.

Pioneer DEH-S5000BT Review

The Pioneer DEH-S5000BT shares some of the features with our best-value pick but is less versatile in terms of connectivity. Fewer features, however, also mean a more attractive price point which could appeal to the less tech-savvy vehicle owners.

Like our best-value pick, this single DIN head unit boasts built-in Bluetooth connectivity for both hands-free calling and audio streaming. Moreover, the unit also has a CD receiver and an AM/FM tuner.

A built-in MOSFET amplifier outputting 14 watts RMS on four channels add further value for money and delivers sufficient power for a crisp, clear sound.

Other features include color customization and Pioneer ARC app compatibility. Ideal for most users, the Pioneer DEH-S5000BT is a less technological but more affordable option.

Best budget
Pioneer DEH-150MP

Pioneer DEH-150MP Single-DIN Car Stereo Receiver

A cheap alternative

The large multi-segment LCD screen and attractive design add visual enhancement to this unit.

Pioneer DEH-150MP Review

The Pioneer DEH-150MP is ideal for those looking to spend as little as possible without compromising on quality. Boasting a 50-watt peak output and 14 watts RMS on four channels, this single DIN head unit allows for quick customization of the sound.

This unit has a 5-band graphic equalizer, subwoofer control, and high and low-pass filters that provide an easy adjustment of the settings.

Included wireless remote control adds further value for money, while the big, multi-segmented backlit LCD screen offers improved legibility and visibility.

Easy to mount in your car’s board, powerful and reliable, the Pioneer DEH-150MP is a great budget pick.

2. Single DIN vs. double DIN head units

The size of a head unit, or car stereo as it is commonly called, is measured according to the German industry standards (or Deutsche Industrie Normen – DIN), which is typically either single or double DIN. The main difference between the two is the size, or to be more precise, the height of the unit.

  • Single DIN head units: Are about 2 inches (5 centimeters) tall and 7 inches (18 centimeters) wide. These compact units typically come as factory standards on the smaller city cars and on most basic vehicle models.
  • Double DIN head units: Are called this way because they are twice as high as the single DIN. These units are 4 inches (10 centimeters) tall, but their width remains unvaried, of 7 inches (18 centimeters). Double DIN units are typically installed on the larger cars and on most full-optional car models. Due to their larger size, the double DIN head units typically integrate more features and are easier to control, although this is not necessarily a rule.

Besides the two main types above, some car models come with non-standard stereos; most non-standard units are 1.5 DIN with a typical height of 3 inches (7.5 centimeters), although some units may have random sizes that respect no industry standard.

3. Types of single DIN head units

The single DIN car stereos come in various types, but the following four are the most popular.

  • Single DIN CD player: Perhaps the old-school model in the modern world, these head units feature a CD player but also auxiliary and USB inputs for playing mp3’s and a radio tuner. They can have analog or digital controls but rarely feature a touchscreen.
  • Single DIN DVD player: Is the upgraded version of the CD player style and can play both CDs and DVDs. These head units typically have touchscreen audio adjustments and a fold-out display that allows watching video content. Like the CD players, they also have aux and USB inputs, a radio tuner, and most of them allow for smartphone integration and Bluetooth connectivity.
  • Single DIN digital media player: Don’t accept CDs or DVDs but often integrate with streaming music services. These head units are ideal for those who mainly listen to music from smartphones or digital music players.
  • Single DIN navigation: Can be any of the types above but also has a built-in GPS navigation system you can use instead of your smartphone when traveling.

4. Single DIN head units power

A powerful single DIN head unit with a good built-in RCA and amp line outputs will provide a great sound quality without requiring an additional amplifier. This is convenient when you want to enhance your car’s audio system without breaking the bank, but also to get more accurate sounds when building a bespoke car audio system.

Two values to check when assessing the unit’s power are the peak output and the root-mean-square (RMS).

  • The peak power represents the total (or highest) value the waveform can reach, and most single DIN head units have a peak power of around 50 watts per channel.
  • The RMS power represents the effective power of the sound and typically varies between 14 and 18 watts.

5. Sound quality

The sound quality varies greatly between the various types of single DIN head units. To create a quality audio system, it is recommended to invest in a car stereo with at least three RCA outputs for the front speakers, rear speakers, and a dedicated subwoofer output, and a high and low pass filter designed to boost the subwoofer’s output.

Besides these, you can also enhance the sound quality with the help of precision sound controls.

Precision sound controls

Precision sound controls allow you to adjust the head unit’s output for treble, midrange, and bass sound to match the audio with your car’s acoustic. If you want to have total control over the sound effects in your car, also consider the following features.

  • Parametric equalizer: Allows you to set the sound intensity in decibels and the bandwidth at which a given frequency is boost or cut. These equalizers offer complete control of the acoustic balance of your system.
  • Digital time correction: Is designed to compensate for the placement inaccuracies of the speakers by delaying the signal of the closest speaker to ensure all sound arrives at your ears at the same time, enhancing the accuracy of the acoustic image.
  • Digital signal processor: Combines the feature of an equalizer with the adjustable listening positions of the sound field, enhancing the quality of the sound. These processors come as built-in units on the high-end single DIN head units or can be added to the standard car stereos.

6. Audio sources

The best single DIN head units can play audio from different sources, including CDs, DVDs, and media players. Some mechless head units allow playing music from USB drives or SD cards alone, and some even come with internal hard drives which can store your media files.

If you also like to listen to radio every now and then, check if the head unit you want comes with a radio tuner. Most car stereos come with basic AM/FM radio, but the most technological units also allow you to access the HD and satellite radio.

7. Bluetooth connectivity

Bluetooth connectivity goes beyond the possibility to play media from your smartphone. Most single DIN head units with integrated Bluetooth connectivity allow for hands-free calling by connecting to a microphone which either comes as a factory standard or can be installed separately.

8. App and smartphone integration

Most single DIN head units allow for app and smartphone integration, but you should check the unit you want is compatible with your device or desired app.

iPhone users should look for the specific Made with iPhone badge on the head unit to ensure the USB port matches their device. New Apple devices using the Lightning connector also require a dedicated USB port.

Android devices and most other systems are easier to connect via the standard auxiliary input or a standard USB port.

App integration

The best single DIN head units allow for streaming app integration; this means you will be able to play and control media from your preferred streaming apps like Pandora, Spotify, or iHeart Radio

Some units also come with dedicated apps which allow controlling the system remotely or access dedicated media libraries.

9. Other important features

  • Preamp output: Is important if you want to build a state-of-the-art car audio system, as it allows you to connect an external amplifier to deliver more power to your speakers and subwoofers.
  • Steering wheel controls compatibility: The steering wheel controls let you operate the single DIN head unit from buttons placed on the steering wheels and perform basic operations, such as adjusting the volume or switching from radio to media player. If you want to use these controls, make sure the unit you like is compatible.
  • Design: Most cutting-edge single DIN head units come with full-color displays and customizable color schemes, backlit buttons, and other interesting perks that can enhance the interior of your car.
  • Anti-theft protection: The best single DIN head units come with security codes and detachable face plates as anti-theft measures.
  • Remote control: Allows you to control the audio system from a distance and is useful when you’re using your car’s audio to liven up an outdoor event or to allow a backseat passenger to control the single DIN head unit.
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